During the live coverage of free agency two days ago, I waited anxiously to find out what, exactly, the Devils would do. General manager Lou Lamoriello was adamant about improving the defense, and I figured Paul Martin would be part of those plans. As a matter of fact, I believed Martin would (and should) take precedence over Ilya Kovalchuk. But after two hours, the Devils lost one of their better defenseman, and the feeling of his departure was an all-too familiar feeling for Devils fans everywhere.
When it was announced that Martin would sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins, I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The defenseman became another solid player to leave for a division foe, and one that will challenge the Devils in the Atlantic Division for the forseeable future. Martin, an important piece of the Devils defense, would now don one of the ugliest jerseys in the game and face his former team six times a season. The defenseman joined the team that broke his forearm last season! But the Penguins offered a nice five-year, $25 million dollar deal, and Martin was a Penguin.
At first, losing Martin upset me. The Devils needed his presence on the blue line, and I thought he could flourish under new coach John MacLean. The team needed a solid puck-moving defenseman, and Martin could provide that play. More importantly, the team needed some type of firepower from the blue line. While Martin wasn’t great offensively, he still gave opposing teams something to think about. With him gone, the Devils lost a solid player and another good homegrown product.
I was further infuriated when I read these comments, provided by Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. Martin decided to sign with the Penguins because of their ability to win immediately and contend for a Stanley Cup championship.
I read into this quote two ways – either the Devils didn’t show enough interest, or Martin believes the Devils can’t “win now.” I highly doubt Lamoriello would let Martin walk easily, so I’ll assume he meant the latter. I can understand how the recent changes may have worried Martin. He’d be playing for yet another new head coach, and he’d be adopting yet another new system. While the Devils have young players, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, a gold medal and Stanley Cup winner. Meanwhile, the Devils haven’t been able to sniff the Stanley Cup in the past few years. It made sense for Martin to leave, and the money offered could have outweighed any Devils offer.
Continue reading for my take on Martin’s departure.
The first day of free agency in the NHL is in the books and it certainly proved to be a crazy day. There were a number of things done yesterday that had me scratching my head. For example, take the smart signing of Martin Biron by the Rangers only to follow up with a multiyear deal for Boogaard who has 2 goals in 5 years and who's only contribution on the ice is pounding other guys in the face. That icing on the cake for the day though had to belong to the Calgary Flames who brought back Olli Jokinen, a guy they couldn't get rid of fast enough last season.
The Devils didn't have a bad day and they certainly threw around the checkbook which is a little uncharacteristic for them on July 1. If you partied too much on Canada Day and completely missed what happened, you are in luck as I am going to recap and add my thoughts in on what went down with the Devils yesterday.
This Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Martin Brodeur will sit in the crowd at the NHL Awards, awaiting the decision as to whether or not he’ll win his fifth Vezina trophy.
I hope he’ll be working on his acceptance speech, because I believe Brodeur is the most deserving candidate for this year’s Vezina trophy.
The other two candidates, Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix Coyotes) and Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) are both deserving candidates. Bryzagalov helped to turn around the Coyotes this season, posting career highs in every major statistical category. He shattered the franchise record for goalie wins, and his eight shutouts ranked second in the league. Miller was even better, helping lead Buffalo to their second division title in four years. The silver medalist won 41 games this season and collected a career-high five shutouts. No one will forget his play with Team USA, but that shouldn’t factor into the decision.
While both Miller and Bryzgalov deserve praise, none of them should walk away with the Vezina. Brodeur’s play this season makes him the most deserving candidate for that honor. Marty led all NHL goalies in games played (77), victories (45) and shutouts (9). He backstopped the Devils to another Jennings Trophy, the fifth of his career. Brodeur continued to destroy the record books, surpassing Terry Sawchuk for most career shutouts and topping Patrik Roy’s record for career games by a goaltender. He tied Roy for the record with his 13th 30-win season, and Brodeur completed his eighth season of 40 wins.
All of these numbers are impressive. But what’s more impressive is Brodeur’s advanced plus/minus rating. With his team on the penalty kill, Brodeur’s on-ice plus/minus rating stood at 5.69, ahead of both Bryzgalov (4.99) and Miller (3.79). At some of the most important times on the ice, with his team down a man, Brodeur stood taller than the other two candidates. In other categories, Brodeur similarly matched to both Bryzgalov and Miller, usually finishing second in the group.
But the most amazing thing about Brodeur? The fact that, as a 38-year-old goalie, he’s playing some of the best hockey in his career. He continues to look sharp, and I’d reason that Brodeur may have only lost a quarter of his step during his career. He continually makes spectacular plays, even with his increase in age. Brodeur has seen players like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski leave, yet he’s produced spectacular statistics time and time again.
This season, Brodeur returned to the elite goaltending level we’re all used to seeing. His play was stellar, and the goalie deserves to be rewarded with his fifth Vezina trophy. Bryzgalov and Miller played well this season, but I believe Brodeur outplayed them and deserves honors as the top goalie.
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When the Devils announced the hiring of John MacLean as their new head coach yesterday, a few thoughts ran through my mind. The first thought was that the team had finally decided on a coach, and now general manager Lou Lamoriello could worry about the impending free agent market and the upcoming NHL draft. The second thought was one of expectation, wondering how we’ll see a great offensive player improve a lackluster Devils attack. And the third was one of worry, that maybe hiring an unproven coach in a room full of veterans wasn’t the best decision. Even with my doubts, I believe “Johnny Mac” was the best fit for the job.
Throughout May, a mini-drama played out through the local newspapers, chronicling the issues within the Devils locker room. First came Jamie Langenbrunner’s displeasure after being a healthy scratch in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Then, after their playoff loss to the Flyers, some members of the team voiced frustration at the way the coaching staff handled situations. Even former players sounded off on the situation. As the “he said” built, ex-coach Jacques Lemaire responded with his own “he said”, coming out and defending his decisions. The Devils locker room was clearly fractured, and there was no way the team could welcome back Lemaire to coach next season.
Enter MacLean, who should begin to fix these issues. The former Devil spent seven seasons as an assistant, where he was able to run the bench twice. And, as we all know, MacLean went down and coached the former Lowell Devils to their first AHL playoff berth in 10 years. Not only that, but the players responded well to him as a coach. As Zach Parise said yesterday, Lowell players told the NHL players they liked MacLean. He already has the approval of both Parise and Langenbrunner, and he seems to be the guy to address the locker room issues. He seems to be more attuned to players’ needs, while at the same time demanding the respect necessary for a head coach. I think he’ll more clearly define the role players, and they’re probably won’t be confusion that could have led to dissension in the locker room.
I expect MacLean to vastly improve the Devils offensive play. MacLean was always a good offensive player, and the Devils need that mentality to fully take advantage of their talent. Parise continued to shine last season, and Travis Zajac broke out. I would expect to see other role players, such as Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias, enjoy greater offensive success. As I talked about a few days ago, the Devils need to attack more and force their opponents into mistakes. With MacLean, I would expect to see a more aggressive forecheck and more puck possession. MacLean will probably give the scorers more creative freedom, and I’ve even expect an improvement in the powerplay.
The addition of Larry Robinson as top assistant will allow the Devils to continue their focus on solid two-way play. The Devils will never become a sloppy defensive team, even with the offensive-minded MacLean behind the bench. It’s important to continue that philosophy. Most of the time, solid defensive play will lead to offensive opportunities, so it’s good to see MacLean keeping Robinson on staff.
Continue reading to find out my overall conclusion of MacLean’s hiring!
MacLean spent seven seasons as a Devils assistant coach but was passed over during Lou Lamoriello’s past two head coaching searches in favor of Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire. He earned it this time by serving as head coach for the Devils’ AHL minor-league team last season. He’ll have help from Larry Robinson, who will return as an assistant coach and act as MacLean’s right-hand man on the bench. Chris Terreri will be back as goalie coach, but the search is on for a second assistant coach as neither Tommy Albelin nor Mario Tremblay will be back in that capacity.
I'm very satisfied that MacLean finally ended up where we all thought he should be. I am a little less enthusiastic that Larry Robinson will be back behind the bench with him. Don't get me wrong, Larry is a great hockey mind and has a certain way with the players but his last few stints with the Devils have been less than thrilling in my opinion.
MacLean has a tough job in front of him. The Devils defense is in decline and certainly needs to be revamped. The aggressive offense that Brent Sutter spent time building took a huge step backwards last season and will need to be restored under MacLean's watch. That's not to say that the offense was terrible last season because it wasn't but they certainly had a more "kill" attitude under Sutter.
Has MacLean already made his first mistake? He believes in Jamie Langenbrunner as Captain, something I am not completely sold on. I personally feel that a Captain should live on the Blue Line but being that the Devils lack that type of Blue Liner, the next obvious choice for me is for Zack Parise to be leading this team, something he already does on the ice.
With Lemaire retiring and the Devils having a number of Free Agents this summer, there were A LOT of questions facing this team in the offseason. Hiring MacLean was the right move, the only move in my opinion and now we will wait to see what Lou has for us on July 1st. Start the countdown, it will be here before you know it. no comments
With the Devils actively searching for a new coach, The Devils’ Den’s favorite beat reporter, Tom Gulliti, spoke to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello about the team’s coaching vacancy. While several names have been linked to the Devils, Lamoriello made an important statement to Gulliti. When speaking about what they’re looking for in a coach, Lamoriello insisted the Devils’ philosophy would remain unchanged.
“Philosophically everything will stay together and we certainly will not put anybody in a position that doesn’t have the same continuity that we’ve had for years.”
While this quote doesn’t point to any candidate in particular, it shows an important facet of the coaching search. Lamoriello doesn’t want to radically change the Devils system. But how much change should a new coach be allowed to instill?
The Devils need a shakeup. It doesn’t have to be a radical one, but the team seemed to be playing stale and uninspired hockey in their first round loss to the Flyers this spring. The lines didn’t show much creativity, and the power play looked atrocious. Many of those themes began during the second part of the season. A new coach should be allowed to tinker with the offense, which I feel is always an area of untapped potential for the Devils. They have so many skill players, but both Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire couldn’t find the right combination to deliver the best lines, especially on the powerplay. It’s a waste of talent, and I believe a new coach needs to shake up the Devils offensively. And even operating under a defensive philosophy, the team can still improve it’s offensive output.
I believe the Devils could become one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league. Both Sutter and Lemaire rarely tapped into this potential when behind the bench. We’ve seen flashes in the past few years, when the Devils would forecheck well for a game or two and turn those chances into goals. But the team could never sustain that effort for a majority of a season. This type of play would be tough and grinding, and the Devils would need to improve their team speed. But a counter-attacking style would still fit under the team’s defense-first mentality and allow for some offensive potency. It wouldn’t be a radical change, but it could be the shift the team needs to finally infuse great defensive play with the potential for a solid offensive team.
So, what candidate could put this on the ice? That responsibility may rest on the unproven shoulders of Mike Haviland. The assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks has worked with this system before, helping to coach a team ready to make plays on the forecheck. Watching Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals showed just how good this counter-attacking system can be. The team always pressed and constantly took advantage of Flyers mistakes. Ultimately, they made plays happen. That’s been missing for the Devils over the past three years, and Haviland may be the coach to instill this style.
Offensive change is a must, but so is a better locker room environment. Read after the jump for my take on how the locker room dynamic needs to change with a new coach.
What was your favorite moment from the 2009/2010 Season? For me, it was the game on February 5th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils scored 3 goals in the final 3 minutes to get the 4-3 victory over the Leafs. It was also Kovalchuk's first game as a Devil and after the comeback was complete, I remember feeling that maybe he was exactly what this team needed to get ourselves another Stanley Cup. Kovalchuk's story this season could have ended a lot better but it certainly couldn't have started any more dramatic than it did that night.
It can be tough to write about hockey when your team is spending their days either fishing, golfing or hanging out with their families and, like it did yesterday here in NJ, when the temperature soars above 90 degrees but this is a hockey blog and that is what we try to do. With July 1st rapidly approaching, we are getting to the point where Lou needs to make a few decisions. Financially I don't see how we can sign both Martin and Kovalchuk without making another move to free up space. I've been doing a review of players since the close of the season but we are going to wrap that up today with a post where I play GM and say who stays and who goes.
23 David Clarkson - Not a great season due to injury but he's the resident "Tough Guy." He's gritty and that is a rarity in the Devils locker room these days.
14 Patrick Davis - He appears too low on the depth chart for my liking. He's a RFA so if someone wants him, go ahead.
26 Patrik Elias - Absolutely a stay. Is he still not one of the best 2 way players in the NHL, not to mention absolutely money in the shootout when he's the sudden death man?
17 Ilya Kovalchuk - Turned down $101 million in Atlanta and he's not going to see that offer with Lou's name on it. I don't see him returning but it doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
15 Jamie Langenbrunner - He's one I would actually consider moving but he has a pesky "No Trade Clause" so I don't think he's going anywhere. I'd like to thing the Olympics took a toll on him this season and that is why he limped through the playoffs.
22 Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - He fights but he doesn't score. Sure we could fill his spot with a guy that has at least 1 career goal right?
11 Dean McAmmond - Turns 37 next month and there are a lot of young guys that could step into his spot.
21 Rob Niedermayer - Started out strong but when the calendar hit December, he disappeared. Now, that exactly what he should do from the roster
20 Jay Pandolfo - Struggled because of a shoulder injury all season long. Surprisingly he has a "No Trade Clause" so we can't move him but I can't figure out what role he still plays on this team.
9 Zach Parise - Should be wearing the "C" that is how important he is to this team.
10 Rod Pelley - Was pegged as John Madden's replacement but I never saw it
25 Andrew Peters - Only thing that will miss this guy are the seats that his ass was usually planted in.
12 Brian Rolston - Didn't have a great season but didn't have as bad a season as I pictured. Not worth the $$ we gave him but he's here to stay.
19 Travis Zajac - A huge piece to the puzzle for the Devils. He plays a very important role on this team we just aren't sure its #1 or #2 centerman on the team.
18 Vladimir Zharkov - Played 40 games this season, didn't find the net once and that's not an easy thing to do. Maybe he can find the door!!
8 Dainius Zubrus - Was arguably the best forward in the playoffs. He had injuries this season but he still produced the numbers we expect of him.
2 Mark Fraser - I'd like to see what he does with some of the guys from Lowell that he has some chemisty with. He proved he's capable of playing in the NHL.
6 Andy Greene - He's a keeper because he's the guy that stepped up when Martin was out. Biggest bargain on the team.
7 Paul Martin - He's the Devils number 1 blue liner. Write this injury filled season off and sign him.
27 Mike Mottau - I know he works hard but it seems that the mistakes that Mottau makes are usually magnified.
29 Anssi Salmela - Has a lot to learn, for instance, minimizing the mistakes he made. I think he has potential but I need more than that.
24 Bryce Salvador - A physical presence on the blue line and while he didn't do much against Philly, he's a keeper.
28 Martin Skoula - Shouldn't have ever landed on the Devils roster to begin with.
5 Colin White - Not the player he once was. His effectiveness around his own net is simply atrocious and I don't know if that is due to his eyesight or what. Wouldn't be sad to see him go.
30 Martin Brodeur - He's on the downside of his career but he is not the reason we lost to Philly. He made some great plays in that series but the rest of the team just didn't help him out. Trading him would probably net us a 1st line center, some draft picks and change the look and future of this team but trading him would also create a huge hole in our net. With the right guys, there is no reason he can't win his 4th cup. Personally don't see him going anywhere but I would like to see him sit a few more games.
35 Yann Danis - Appeared in 12 games and is capable of playing the backup, if that is what he wants to do.
So there are a few guys that we could move (some have to agreee to it) and that would allow Lou to find the cash to resign Martin and Kovalchuk. I still think Ilya moves to another team though. For some reason, St. Louis just seems to stand out in my head for his destination. Either way, Martin is a must and hopefully Lou's priority this summer, right behind a new head coach that is!!no comments
This offseason, the Devils have several player questions which need to be answered. Should the team pursue Ilya Kovalchuk, leaving Paul Martin to free agency? Maybe the opposite should occur. Can general manager Lou Lamoriello find a solid, second-line center? And how much would that center cost?
In the commotion over Kovalchuk and Martin, one restricted free agent has moved to the back burner in the minds of many fans. David Clarkson, the team’s skilled tough-guy, can entertain offers from other teams in the league. Which brings me to my main question – how much is Clarkson worth?
The Devils had high expectations for Clarkson this year, and many fans echoed the same thought. Clarkson played in all 82 games last year, tallying 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists). The resident tough-guy also took 164 penalty minutes. Finally, Clarkson scored four powerplay goals, showing his versatility with the extra man. But stats don’t tell the entire story. Clarkson provided the Devils with a big body, someone who wasn’t afraid to mix it up and crash the net. Clarkson’s play seemed to be endearing himself to the Devils organization and fans alike, and expectations grew.
It seemed Clarkson would take off this season, but he didn’t have the best of luck. Clarkson twice injured his ankle – the first coming after he blocked a Zdeno Chara shot. The injury set him back, and Clarkson missed significant parts of December, January and February. His absence was noticeable, as the Devils lacked a big body to mix it up in front of the net the entire season. When on the ice, Clarkson seemed to provide a spark, giving the Devils the physical presence they so desperately lacked.
This off-season, the Devils talented young winner becomes a restricted free agent, one I believe would garner some interest from teams around the league. While Clarkson has shown he can be a talented scorer, I don’t believe he’s worth breaking the bank over. In an offseason where the Devils must decide if Martin or Kovalchuk will receive a big payday, Clarkson shouldn’t expect a bank-breaking deal. The winger only made $875,000 last season, and I don’t see much of a raise coming his way. I would have to believe Lamoriello would only offer two or three million dollars for the next few years. At most, a three or four year contract for four million would be acceptable. But that would be pushing it. I think Clarkson isn’t worth that much money, especially with bigger holes to fill.
So what do you think? What is David Clarkson really worth? Make your opinions known in the comment section of the article!no comments
During the off-season, I’ll take a look at some of the biggest storylines from this past season. Some will be good, others bad, and some even ugly. I’ve already reviewed the Devils’ regular season performance, their play against the division, their lack of powerplay success, Martin Brodeur’s strong season, and the team’s acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk. Today, I’ll look at a line change which frustrated fans and players alike – the breakup of the ZZ Pops Line.
When Brent Sutter coached the Devils, he had a brilliant idea – to put Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner on a line together. The three players seemed to click, and the line quickly became popular among fans. The ZZ Pops line, with “Pops” being the elder Langenbrunner, produced last season. Parise put up 94 points in 2008-2009, tops among the team. Langenbrunner tallied 69 points, and Zajac totaled 62. The line always seemed to click, and they looked more comfortable as the season wore on. Coming into the 2009 – 2010 season, I thought we’d continue to see the emergence of this line as one of the greatest in the league. But coach Jacques Lemaire had other plans.
As was his policy throughout the regular season, Lemaire attempted to find offense from different line combinations. He constantly shifted players, looking for the right combination. This was evident in the second half, when the Devils began to struggle and play inconsistent hockey. The ZZ Pops line wasn’t immune to this, and Lemaire frequently broke up the pair. In an article on NHL.com, Lemaire explained his decision to break the line, saying:
You have to find ideas to get everyone to work. Work means: have success, work together. As soon as there’s a line that doesn’t have success… you don’t want to play with the one that’s had success, but you’ve got to try to find something that won’t interfere with the success of the other lines. Like changing one piece, maybe it’ll be fine if you change only one piece. Sometimes you have to change two.
I still don’t understand that logic. I realize the Devils, throughout the season, struggled offensively. But when you have a line that clicks, the line should stay together. Parise, Zajac and Langenbrunner were the top three scorers for the Devils, finishing with a combined 210 points. The line also played solid defensive hockey, and operated as one of the best forechecking lines of the team. Lemaire tried in vain to put players together, like putting Langenbrunner on the second line with Patrik Elias. These line combinations never seemed to work. Lemaire should have left the ZZ Pops line alone. When he broke up the line, I began to disagree with his coaching style.
Clearly, the ZZ Pops line was one of the top lines on the team. Dainius Zubrus played well with the both Zajac and Parise, but he couldn’t match the production Langenbrunner had with the line. With Parise, both Zajac and Langenbrunner had better Corsi numbers. It seemed like each player knew where the other was on the ice. Their chemistry was the best on the team. I understand searching for more offense, but that line could have sparked better play throughout the lineup.
While all three players thrived (including Zajac, who set a career high in goals), they could have done more as the ZZ Pops line. We’ll see if the next Devils’ coach decides to reunite the line.
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